Nurses share memories of NHS on milestone birthday

5th Jul 2023

They are the nurses who have a combined experience of over a thousand years – and gathering together ahead of the 75th birthday of the NHS, they shared some of their fondest memories of working at City Hospital in Birmingham.

Around 200 people were at a reunion held at the Dudley Road site with one flying in from as far as New Zealand to be there.

Eileen as a trainee nurse in 1955.

They included Eileen, who joined the hospital as a trainee in 1955. Now aged 86, she chuckled as she recalled seeing a full-size car being driven up the historic corridor – reported as one of the longest hospital corridors in Europe.

“The doctors and nurses were always playing tricks on each other in the wards, but I remember one day in particular when I just heard this boom, boom, boom,” Eileen recalled.

“We went rushing to the door and when we opened it, saw this red car being driven up the corridor, right up to the very end. But of course, they couldn’t get it back out, so pushed it into the ward where I was working to turn it around and get it out. The story about the car is legendary.”

The main City Hospital building is due to be demolished when the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital opens in Smethwick next year – both are part of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

It dates back to 1887 when it was a workhouse. It became a District General Hospital in 1920 and is recognised for its Nightingale wards and the long corridor known today as the main spine.

Sophie Gask and Celia Moore talked about how nursing had improved over the years. Both trained at the Trust in 1984.

Sophie said: “Nowadays its much easier to do some aspects of the job, like the observations and there’s more equipment to help move patients around. I also think there are more opportunities for nurses to become specialists in certain areas so in some ways, the sky’s the limit.”

This photo shows Alison and Karen re-enacting a photo of themselves that was taken in the 1980s where they are holding cameras.
Alison and Karen re-enact a photograph taken years ago at City Hospital.

City Hospital was also the place where lifelong friendships were made. Alison Jackson and Karen Lewis trained together from 1986 until 1989, living together in the nurses quarters.

The pair were happy to re-enact a photograph that was taken during their training, when they attended the event.

Alison said: “We are still friends to this day. Living and working together really helped us to develop friends that have lasted a lifetime. We’ve had a great time returning to City and seeing all the old buildings which hold many happy memories for us.”

Mel Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer, said: “It was a truly wonderful day meeting so many nurses and former nurses and hearing their stories. The NHS and City Hospital holds fantastic memories for so many people and it’s important that we recognise the impact it has had on their lives.

 “The 75th anniversary is a real milestone and although this event was looking back over the years, we have so much to look forward to, including the opening of our new hospital, Midland Met. We will be delivering healthcare in a cutting-edge environment, training our nurses up using the latest technology – all whilst still continuing to show our patients compassionate care.

“It really is an exciting time for the Trust.”

Watch Eileen and others share their memories in the videos below:


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